Sizzling Flames Too Hot For Algeria

MINNOWS Malawi can “shock the world” according to coach Kinnah Phiri, after his side thrashed a woeful Algerian team 3-0 in their opening match of the African Nations Cup.

‘The Flames’, who are ranked 99th in the world, stunned a near empty Estádio 11 de Novembro with three goals in 50 minutes to despatch of ‘The Desert Foxes’ and move top of Group A.

Malawi may be nicknamed the Flames, but they took to the field far from fired-up given the scorching heat inside the stadium, with both sides opting to start the match at a conservative and leisurely pace.

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THE EASIEST STEWARDS JOB?: An embarassing attendance of 1,000 watched Malawi’s match in a stadium which hold’s 50,000.

The first chance of the game fell to Algeria on four minutes. Forward Abdelkader Ghezzal burst down the right hand side before lashing a shot goalwards, forcing Malawi ‘keeper Swadick Sanudi to make an instinctive save.

Malawi responded with an attacking threat of their own soon after. Lanky striker Russell Mwafulirwa charged into the box to head a lofty cross narrowly wide of the post. Despite these brief flutters of excitement, the first 15 minutes were a drab affair of ‘route-one’ football mixed with a smattering of long range efforts.

A cavalcade of errors lead to the first goal on 16 minutes. Malawi right back Elvis Kafoteka exposed some awful Algerian play as his 60-yard pass skipped between defenders before arriving in an unmarked Esau Kanyenda’s path. Sensing danger, Algerian ‘keeper Faouzi Chaouchi rushed from his line only to kick the ball at Kanyeda’s chest, leaving a grateful Mwalfulirwa free to smash the ball home from a tight angle.

FIRST BLOOD: Esau Kanyenda sprints through to help create Malawi’s opening goal.

That embarrassing goal sparked Algeria into life, with the North African side ploughing forward several times only to then disappoint in the final third with a series of half-hearted efforts. The best of these opportunities fell to veteran striker Rafik Saïfi, who latched onto a defence splitting through-ball before seeing his delicate lob beat the advancing Sanudi, but drop agonisingly over the bar.

Malawi made the Desert Foxes pay for that wasted chance 30 minutes in. A pin point cross from Moses Chavula left Algeria standing like statues, allowing Kafoteka to pop up and bullet his header into the right hand side, past the flailing hand of Chaouchi.

Algeria pressed on for a goal before half-time, but Malawi’s organised defence kept the Desert Foxes at bay, their best chance being a failed Saïfi attempt at an overhead kick from a Karim Ziani cross.

MISSING PIECE: Karim Zaini tries to find that killer ball that Algeria are lacking.

Returning to the pitch for the second half, Algeria knew they would have to come out on the front foot to salvage anything from the game. However it was Malawi who looked the hungrier of the sides as they added their third on 48 minutes. Mwalfulirwa slashed the ball goalwards after a Chaouchi fumble only to have his shot cannon back off the post. Luckily for the Flames, the ball found its way back to Davi Banda who slotted a powerful drive into the left hand corner to put Malawi out of sight.

As the exhaustive heat sapped the strength of both teams, Algeria’s guile for a fightback began to wane. The Desert Foxes came close to a goal on 54 minutes when a Ghezzal header was tipped spectacularly over by Sanudi. Substitute Abdelmalek Ziaya then had the chance just past the hour but his unmarked header was sent over the bar.

Where as the Desert Foxes had mustered a string of limp chances over the match, Malawi showed their superior cutting edge once more with 20 minutes left. The Flames’ Peter Wadabwa had his incisive shot saved by Chaouchi, before heading the rebound into the side netting. Chaouchi was involved again near the end when his blunder gifted Chiukepo Msowoya the opportunity to add a fourth, but the substitute squandered the chance.

As the final whistle rang, the Malawian coaches and players embraced to celebrate their nation’s first ever victory in the competition. Phiri said after the game: “We are outsiders in this competition. We played well and I congratulate my players. We did prepare well and we are reaping the fruits here. This is just the first match, there are two to go, if we maintain this balance, we can shock the world!”


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